How do we cope with anger as a caregiver?
overwhelmed by caregiving frustration and anger

We all recognize that caregiving is a complex task. It can bring a new closeness with the person you are caring for. It can inevitably bring a flood of emotions including compassion, nostalgia, gratitude, devotion, frustration, grief, sadness, love, guilt, and anger.

Anger is an emotion that is particularly challenging for caregivers. It is normal that at some point in the caregiver relationship it will appear. Often times when your role is not acknowledged or the person you are caring for is agitated or aggressive the stress of this role feels overwhelming. You are also simultaneously coping with the grief of losing the person you knew which is an additional component. The reality is unexpected behaviors or medical problems can happen. In your role as a caregiver you cannot always stop or control these situations making you feel helpless and isolated.

The first thing to recognize is anger is a normal reaction. Caregiver fatigue evolves from daily physical and emotional exhaustion. You may become emotionally raw. Do not chastise yourself of feel guilty when you have moments of high frustration or anger. You are human and nobody can always balance all aspects of their life, family other relationships, work, other life commitments in a seamless way. There are things you can do and need to know as you find yourself experiencing these feelings:

 

Recognize that you are making a difference even when it doesn’t feel that way

Think about what care options would be available if you were not there and how significant your role is.

Be kind to Yourself 

Forgive yourself for moments when you become frustrated and angry. Focus more on the countless times when you were patient and compassionate. Allow yourself to have moments of imperfection.

Allow Yourself Respite

Be aware of your own body and feelings. Don’t wait till you crash physically or emotionally from your caregiver responsibilities. Be proactive on your own behalf and get additional support from a relative, friend, of healthcare professional, or respite care program. Give yourself time to recharge. It will benefit you and the person you are taking care of.

Take a Moment to Consider Why You are Angry

When someone is yelling at you or being physically aggressive it is hard not to get angry. Carefully consider why the person you are caring for is doing things to make you angry. Maybe their behavior has nothing to do with you. Perhaps their medical condition creates poor impulse control or memory and they can’t help but ask you the same thing over and over again. Maybe they don’t recognize you and are afraid you are a stranger and they are reacting out of fear or confusion. Maybe they are having a reaction to a medication. Sometimes understanding the reasons for their behavior can soften your reaction. Your feelings about caregiving  will change moment to moment.

Incorporate Some Fun Into Your Role as a Caregiver

Think about something you would like to do that could bring some relief from conflicts. For example turn on some music and dance. Music can have a soothing affect on all concerned. Pick a favorite movie and watch it together. Take out old photos and reminisce. That can be meaningful for both of you.

Redirect

If trying to get dressed becomes a battle just stop. Focus on something else and come back to it later. Give the person you are caring for limited choices when appropriate. For example, would you like to wear your blue or red shirt. Have them both out so the person you are caring for can choose. This way you both feel like you have some control which helps reduce frustration and anger.

Identify Healthy Ways to Release Your Anger

Maybe you will feel better after you kick a ball or punch a pillow. Maybe going in another room and saying what you would like to say letting it out will help. This release will help calm you down so you can move forward with it taking less of a toll.  Physical exercise releases tension and can lift mood. Can you take a walk, do jumping jacks, yoga, or meditation? Think about what feels right for you. Writing can be a great release. Write your feelings down or what you would like to say. Transfer your feelings into a poem. You don’t have to share it with anyone. It is another form of healthy release.

Don’t spend time Getting Upset about Things You Cannot Control

This takes extra time and energy you don’t have. Remember you cannot necessarily control the actionsof the person you are caring for. You may have a big fight yesterday. The person you care for has no memory of it today. Try to leave your anger behind. Focus on what you can control which is your reaction and attitude. Start fresh today.

Recognize You Cannot Change Past Relationships

You may be caring for a person whom you had a  past conflict ridden relationship. This impacts your role as a caregiver. You need to closely examine its impact on you. Maybe you are not the best person to assume this role.

     

The biggest mistake caregivers make is not taking time taking care of themselves. You need to identify a person you can candidly talk to about the challenges of your caregiving experience. Another great source of support are caregiver groups or on line caregiver chat sites where you know others understand and have empathy for what you are experiencing. Finally, a healthcare professional with expertise in this area can offer counseling to help.


Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents.

Written by Iris Waichler
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Role Reversal is the winner of 5 major book awards. Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker and patient advocate for 40 years. She has done freelance writing, counseling, and workshops on patient advocacy and healthcare related issues for 17 years. Find out more at her website http://iriswaichler.wpengine.com

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78 Comments

  1. It’s sure not easy coping with their bad behaviors!

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  2. Thanks for sharing, I need this

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    • Anger? You damn well better not be dealing with anger as a caregiver. If you are, it’s a sign you better get help, for yourself and in doing your job as a caregiver. Caregivers who develop anger are in danger of becoming abusive to the one they perceive is causing the anger. No one “causes” your anger, if you believe that you’re fooling yourself. It’s all in how you choose to respond to your emotions. Anger is one emotion you cannot allow in being an effective caregiver. Being frustrated, tired, disrespected/ignored by a physician, etc., are all normal and you can deal with those. But if you find yourself becoming angry at the person you’re caring for, it’s time to get some help, immediately. Help for yourself personally, and help in administering the caregiving duties to your loved one.

      Reply
  3. I scream, yell, and stomp my feet around the house from disgust on real messy mornings, and bawl on sad frustrating nights…Then I’m fine..

    I’m in a general state of pissed off most of the time…

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  4. Try and think of person your caring for with love. Just try and think how they must feel .
    If your not able just don’t do it. Maybe have someone in and go out a couple hours most day.
    If you need scream and have such feelings I suggest
    Not for you.
    I am no hero but usually felt love for who I cared for. I
    Did have to plan a couple naps.
    And we dug deep and got H Van. It was good for us all.
    Sure they are costly but sold our car, cut budget down.
    It is the best feeling to get out and see things and go places. Even gave up cable tv. Got Netflix and news on phone.
    Planned weekly menu to avoid good waste.
    Good wishes to all Caregivers. So wonderful you
    Are doing this.
    Elaine

    Reply
  5. The person I am taking care of must have a mix of feelings about his caregiver–me. Resentment at the control, gratitude at the help, fear of being alone, distrust; all mixed up and turned on and off by dementia (in my case). This results in both unintentional and intentional actions which drive me crazy and in some cases, infuriate me. One time it got so bad that I called and said, “I’m leaving at such-and-such a time and won’t be back till this–day at such-and-such time. If you don’t want (the patient) to be alone, you’ll have to get someone here.” But that’s a last ditch effort that can’t be used often. I try to ‘understand’ the action and excuse it due to his condition. That rarely works. It simply gives him permission to be an ass towards me and leaves me no out but take it. Great. The final thing that makes me try and get rid of anger is a self-interest notion. What if he dies while I’m angry with him? I’ll be stuck with that curse the rest of my life. So for my own peace of mind ‘after the fact’, I try to shake the anger as soon as possible. He’s not a child. He’s not going to learn and become better behaved. In all likelihood he will become more nasty as his condition worsens. I am economically stuck or I would have bailed long ago. So anger management is crucial for both our sakes. Keeping that in mind is my best method to shake off anger.

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  6. Try to ignore and go to another room to get my breath. On occasion have just said ‘I don’t have to take this’ and left him alone in the house for an hour.

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  7. Chocolate, coffee, cuddling with the dogs, gardening, cleaning, reading, art project, letting myself scream and rant in the car.

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    • I do about the same thing but I don’t rant in the car

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    • Oh, my dad picks fights with me and has days where he really hits the nerve of mean. I have to rant it out or I will end up saying it to him when there is no point. With his brain damage from cluster strokes, he forgets and goes nice again.

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  8. There’s an end at some point. I remind myself that I will be there too someday. Probably right behind her. Taking care of a smoker is toxic in so many ways.

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  9. Getting out of the house to the local gym. If no time, pull out the yoga video and do it.

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  10. Immediate take a deep breath say a prayer. When i have me time go outside and give it to the universe.

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  11. Take a deep breath & walk into another room for awhile & comeback after the steam has cooled off.

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  12. I choke it down in the moment, but I go to my room or go for a walk around the yard or property. Walking gets rid of the toxins that accompany anger. My jaws and molars are sore at the end of some days from clenching my teeth all day. Not the best coping…. one step at a time. Honest. And breathe it away, too.

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  13. It can get so hard some days but I always took a few deep breathes and reminded myself whom I was caring for and it got ok again

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    • and I wish I was still taking care of my Momma.. I miss her so much Love you Momma

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  14. Some days I break down and cry. I try to find a project to work on, not one to sit down and relax

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    • I do the same thing. Or try to talk to my pastor and that does help

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    • I walk miles and miles. Kept me sane.

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  15. Extra time off. My first day today in calling in sick in five years! Extra time off is key . you will survive financially and they will survive without you for a day or two!

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  16. I am a caregiver for a living I work 38 hrs. A week taking care of an 83yr. Old stage 4 Alzheimer’s woman. Been with her for almost 5 yrs. I love her but I can’t wait to get outside or to my own home and life. Her son thinks my job is very easy but yet when he has to come here to do something for her or the daughter they can handle it for half an hour but yet they tell me how easy my job is physically it’s not bad mentally it is draining some days I feel like I’m going to lose my mind thank God I have my phone and there’s a TV in her room. I can only clean her house so much there’s nothing really to do except look at her feed her and change her when she wets herself I feel for family that has to do this 24/7 I would go insane

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    • I feel your pain. Literally. I have noone to relieve me, either. 24/7/365 for 7 years now, and going strong. Her mind is weak, but her body is strong.

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  17. i love my husband, i am fully aware that being sick is not his fault, it was just our bad luck. that being said, i still get angry with him sometimes, esp when i think he’s asking me to do something for him that he can do for himself. like, he balls his hands up in fists and then calls for me to come pry his hands open. i mean, srsly. he can unfold his own hands, its just easier when i do it for him.

    Reply
  18. I printed this out and hung it on Mom’s bedroom door. It helps.

    Reply
  19. I am caregiver to my aunt she has advanced dementia and she broke her hip she had surgery but hasn’t helped she lives with me so I’m 24/7 I’m tired as all of you all are when she has bad moments and starts cussing and gets aggressive it breaks my heart because I know that’s not her. Then I think have I done something wrong to make her this upset

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  20. I wish social services/adult protective services had an emergency number you could call for them to send someone out ASAP to just step in for an hour or two. I’ve been the sole caregiver for my Alzheimer’s mom for 7 years. She is in the mean and aggressive stage and on most days I spend 2 – 3 hours or more being screamed at, if not physically attacked. Last week she broke my finger. She cannot be left alone, so just walking out of the door is not an option, especially when it’s late at night. My only option is to sit there and get verbally or physically assaulted. And then when she goes to sleep I just sit and cry.

    Reply
    • Oh Julie, I’m so sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time – I know it really does feel like it but please know you are not alone as there are so many of us in the same position. Small consolation I know but we have to have something to hold onto.
      What I want to know is this – why are carers not protected under POVA – I reckon we take as much, if not more, abuse than those people being cared for, are we not vulnerable adults too. I know, at times, I feel very vulnerable, used and abused!!!

      Reply
  21. I so relate to this,but now have lost the one I cared for and cannot go back to say sorry. It’s tearing me apart 🙁 🙁

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    • Been through this and understand. “Experts” say it’s normal to feel this way. Time and journaling my feelings helps.

      Reply
  22. I am my adult son’s caregiver, have been for 33 years, if I get angry, I remove myself and go calm down some place else, and think to myself how can I make him understand why/how things we are doing or asking him to do, It gives us both a chance to re-group.

    Reply
    • Bless you…you are doing a very difficult job mentally and emotionally. May God give you strength….you will be rewarded

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  23. There is a huge difference when you take care of your sibling or you work for a stranger 24 /7 without having your own life. Money can recompense lyour own life you missing

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  24. I know how that feels and with anger comes the guilt

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  25. My husband is a truck driver so usually I take 5 min and vent to him on the cell. He is awsome with that. Been doing it for many years. And when he is home we have been doing upgrades to the house for mom so I usually get the sledge hammer it really helps too.

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    • Yes this is us for sure Lucy Borges

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  26. Once again. The tried and true. Faith and Xanax.

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    • Can’t take xanax but knowing the lord put me here to take care of my mom for some reason helps. Not always haha!!

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    • I m sorry. The level of 24/7/365 stress for the last decade compels me to support the use of anti anxiety methods that work. And green tea, yoga, meditation and candles do not cut it after the 30th suicide attempt of my SMI w/psychosis 6’1″ built like an offensive lineman son. Xanax saved my life. Cuz I’m 5’2″. Remaining calm under combat situations requires pharmaceuticals after the 2-3rd year.

      Reply
  27. I carried around a lot of pent up anger for years and it took it’s toll. It’s vital to your overall well being to channel that anger into something else- whether it be exercise, sport, writing, music, whatever.. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    Reply
  28. 24/7 6 days a week or a few hours for Dr appt. Mostly I’m home. I love my Mom and she will stay here with me until her time comes. When I get upset I have heavy bag training or music therapy. I only go away if I have a person on call. But I can imagine life no other way.

    Reply
  29. having a break, some support and some alone time, little laughter helps.

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  30. I went to a workshop offered by the hospital to learn how to control my anger.

    Finding local resources (if any) is important in helping us in our caregiving journey.

    What I learned in this workshop that helped me is positive self-talk. I just keep telling myself that I can handle it and that it is okay to get upset.

    Reply
  31. They need help cause veeyvdifficult

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  32. Person should not work more than 8 hours a day or 40 maybe 50 hours per week. Most caregiving job is 24 hours 7 days per week. Care givers should be payed per hour not per day , another thing caregivers are human not bio robot who can be 24 hours in somebody else house , manage to stay healthy. I have questions how ? if you don’t go mostly outside to catch a gasp of air. ?

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    • What if it’s your husb and job is 24..7..365..im so burned out

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    • I am caregiver to my aunt she has advanced dementia and she broke her hip she had surgery but hasn’t helped she lives with me so I’m 24/7 I’m tired as all of you all are when she has bad moments and starts cussing and gets aggressive it breaks my heart because I know that’s not her. Then I think have I done something wrong to make her this upset

      Reply
    • When you family member it is different story , but nobody tells in different kind of occupation stay in the job 24 /7 and don’t have a life. I’m talking about caregivers who are hired from agency’s or private people. Caregiving is a job and should be finished after 8 hours period of time like every job in the world.

      Reply
  33. Allow help, encourage help, pay for help, search for help. Even one or two days a week. Look for adult daycare. Use govt sponsored transportation if possible. Find a capable retired health care giver and pay them. Rest. It’s the toughest work to do day in and day out.

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    • lot of paying for a pensioner,leaves no food no rent= nothing.

      Reply
    • I know but keep looking. Church, relatives to spell you for a coupla hours. Build an organization. Meals on wheels. Anything helps.

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    • Pay for….? I had to go to Titlemax and get a title loan on ,y car last week just so we could buy toilet paper. There is no paying for help.

      Reply
    • Then I have no ideas. I’m sorry. Quit. Suffer. You’re right! Sorry you are stuck. I admire your strength. I shall no longer try to help with my stupid ideas.

      Reply
  34. I cant get used to washing my Mum. I yell and cuss at the top of my lungs and stomp around the house most mornings after I’ve finished while getting everything in the washing machine . It lasts bout 3- 5 minutes. Then I feel a bit better..

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    • I’ve been a care-giver for my mom for 19 years this year. She’s a traumatic brain injury survivor. For me, the hardest part of caring for a TBI survivor is the *perseveration*. Mom repeats everything over and over ad nauseum. Which makes bathing her on a daily basis highly stressful and frustrating. In order to cope, a few years ago I started putting in my ear buds and listening to loud music as I bath her. It goes much quicker now and I’m less stressed and less inclined to rant and rave✌.

      Reply
    • Bathing my MIL is like bathing a cat! Its exhausting and very stressful for anyone who tries

      Reply

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